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Continued: A generation's moniker can shape its destiny

  • Article by: KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 6, 2014 - 12:08 PM

About the same time, historians Douglas Strauss and Neil Howe came up with “13th Generation” for what they tracked as the 13th generation since Ben Franklin’s time — in other words, when the United States became an independent country.

Erudite, yes, but society already was starting to pick up the pace and favored a brisk Gen X to all those syllables. Still, the duo recovered by coining “millennials” for those born between 1981 and 2000, which bested Ad Age’s more derivative Gen Y.

Enter iGens?

The next generation still is being born, so its name can’t yet be determined. According to a Pew Research Center blog post: “Their critical formative moment or moments may not yet have happened. It’s really too early to tell exactly which of the many forces acting upon them will be the most broadly applicable and impactful.”

Susan Brower, the state demographer for Minnesota, agrees, noting that definitions get set in motion “when there is a new or defining event, or cultural tie that comes out of social commentary.”

Pop cultural names don’t add much value to the work of demographers, who are more concerned with marking a generation’s start points and end points, she said.

It’s a determination done in retrospect, and is less a “clean” parade of dates than you might think, given events of history, Brower added. “There’s very little precision around where one generation begins and another ends,” she said. “But it’s still important for us to think about the generations’ demographics because they behave differently.”

She wouldn’t hazard a guess about the next term: “We’ve yet to see.”

Others, however, are eager to speculate.

When historians Strauss and Howe sponsored a website contest in 2005, not long after the Sept. 11 attacks, the clear winner was Homeland Generation.

In 2012, the marketing firm Frank N. Magid Associates came up with the term “plurals.” Plurals, it contends, will be the United States’ last generation with a Caucasian majority, will exist in far more diverse social circles than previous generations, and also is “the most positive about America becoming more ethnically diverse.”

Among the names being perused at Pew are the TwoKays or 2K’s (born after 2000), Generation i (or iGeners and iGens), @generation, the Swipe Generation, the Tweennials, Screeners and Evernets.

Clearly, it’s possible to overthink this.

Mary Meehan’s Panoramix Global favors Gen We, partly to poke a gentle stick at Generation Me — a term that, interestingly, has been used to describe both baby boomers and millennials as being insufferably self-absorbed (which suggests that various generations often delight in poking sharp sticks at each other).

Meehan believes that members of Gen We will be constantly connected and rarely alone technologically (although perhaps physically), given the reach of social media.

Right now, it’s impossible to know what name eventually will stick, she said.

“There tends to be tipping point of sorts when a term begins to be used enough to be recognized.”

Evernets? iGens? Stay tuned.

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